Standing in New York City’s DeWitt Clinton Park, Harry Potter fans may have thought themselves dreaming. All around them, hundreds of Quidditch players, including students from Yale, were running, broomsticks between their legs, into an adventure not even J.K. Rowling could have imagined.
Muggles from across the United States and Canada gathered Saturday and Sunday for the fourth annual Quidditch World Cup, competing for victory at the highest-level competition of the no-longer-fictional sport. In its first World Cup showing, Yale finished in the top 16 out of 46 teams participating, while Middlebury beat Tufts in the finals, winning the championship for the fourth year in a row.
“It’s great to see so many teams out here, and so many people taking the sport seriously,” captain Bahij Chancey ’13 said. “Everyone is ready to have a good time but still being competitive about it. [It’s] just a lot of fun to be out here.”
On Saturday, Yale went 2–1, losing to St. Lawrence University, but beating Ives Pond Quidditch Club and Ringling College of Art and Design. Chancey said that the Yale team defied expectations by making it to Sunday’s single-elimination tournament, where Yale initially beat UMass Amherst. Subsequently, the Bulldogs lost to Louisiana State University 110–40 — though seeker and captain Hana Zegeye ’13 caught the snitch. In the last match, Zegeye injured her knee and was taken to the hospital. However now, according to Chancey, she is “doing fine.” Yale captured the snitch in four out of the five games in which it participated.
The Harvard “Horntails,” the only other Ivy competing, were eliminated after losing their first match Sunday against McGill University 90–10.
Yale’s team was founded last year, and chose “Lumos et Veritaserum” as its motto, playing on the school’s official motto and the spell for lighting up a wand in Rowling’s books. Though they couldn’t participate in the Quidditch World Cup last season, they still played and beat Harvard 50–0 on Cross Campus the day before The Game.
“Muggle Quidditch” was invented at Middlebury in 2005 as an intramural sport, and the first intercollegiate game was held against Vassar two years later. Since then, the sport has grown into an international phenomenon, with teams formed everywhere from Peru to South Korea.
Due to obvious reasons — including the law of gravity — Muggle Quidditch cannot fully imitate the version described in the Harry Potter books, but the two are mostly similar, and broomsticks are still required.
“You’ve got to have a good personality to play Quidditch,” Ilana Berzon, the marketing director for Emerson’s Quidditch team, said. “You have to put a broom between your legs, and then like it. … At the end of the day, you have to step back and say, ‘I’m here, playing Quidditch.’”
As in Rowling’s version, there are seven players that compete on the egg-shaped field: three chasers, who score by throwing the “Quaffle” (volleyball) through one of three hoops; one keeper, who guards the hoops; two beaters, who throw “Bludgers” (dodgeballs) at opposing players, forcing them to drop the Quaffle; and one seeker, whose job it is to catch the snitch, which earns 30 points for his or her team and ends the game.
One unique aspect of the real-life game is the snitch runner. Instead of an enchanted golden ball that flies across the field, the snitch is attached to an impish cross country runner, entirely clad in yellow, who runs across the field and often throws seekers to the ground.
“It’s a very fast-paced game,” Chancey said. “It’s more of a physical game than most people would imagine.”
For the most part, the atmosphere was lighthearted. In addition to the 757 athletes, many fans traveled to New York to cheer on their school. At one point, a large group began to dance the Macarena.
“There’s been as much dancing as there has been Quidditch out there today,” Chancey said.
For most participating, the weekend served as an opportunity to live out a childhood fantasy.
“It’s like a dream come true,” LSU’s Devery Hunt said. “We get to play Quidditch! I mean, I remember reading the books, imagining it and wishing that I could play. And now I’m here, playing against other schools and other people that are just as passionate as I am.”
Currently, the Yale’s Quidditch team is contacting Harvard’s team in hopes of competing against the Crimson this weekend before The Game. The team is also attempting to make Quidditch a Yale intramural sport, coordinate more regular season matches and recruit more players to the team.